Are You a Joiner?

I've been a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators for five years now, and gotten all kinds of benefits from this organization. I found my original critique partners through SCBWI, and their conferences are consistently outstanding. Our local regional chapter also holds schmoozes, where we can meet in person to brag, gripe, and share information.

I highly recommend them, but I have run into one problem: one or more of my novels may end up in the New Adult genre rather than Young Adult--which is as high as SCBWI goes for age levels.

So, partly to cover all my bases (but mostly because I've heard great things about their workshops), I'm also joining Romance Writers of America. Hubby is giving me the membership as my Christmas present, and I'm so excited to see what the local RWA chapters have to offer! There are actually 2 chapters nearby, and I may end up going to both of them.

What about you? Do you belong to any worthwhile writers' organizations? Sisters in Crime is another one I've heard good things about; I've actually been to part of the Left Coast Crime conference, even though I don't write mysteries.

The Glorious Dusting Wand Tree Topper

So yesterday on Twitter, an alumni Operation Awesome operative, Wesley Chu, was mentioned in a contest:

My curiosity piqued, I went to check it out. Basically, Wes posted a picture of a book tree in his Christmas blog post for Angry Robot Books, his publisher. And then Justin Landon of Staffer's Book Review and Angry Robot decided to challenge readers to make a book tree of their own--with the enticement of prizes to get us off our asses.

Being in the midst of Dreaded Chore Avoidance, I tweeted back to them:

To which Justin replied:

Challenge accepted!

I think that Glorious Dusting Wand Tree Topper is quite fetching, personally. Plus, I avoided chores while I assembled this from beloved (or aesthetically colored) books, and I'll be able to avoid dusting for however long it stays up. Hmm, maybe I'll change out the trimmings seasonally, until it develops its own festive draping of cobwebs and dust--just in time for Halloween.

If you care to enter the contest, follow the link in the first tweet embedded above. Merry Bookimus!

Update: My husband insisted that we add a sign to the precarious book tree. We hope that says, "I dare you, pig (Liesel)!" as Google Translate claims, and not "I am attracted to female pigs" as we fear.

Gift Idea for Writers

I've seen this pop up on a few Facebook pages, but wanted to share this gift idea here too--I get some of my best ideas in the bathtub or shower!

Happy holidays everyone!

OA Today

I'm on Operation Awesome today, with a query critique. Except, I couldn't find anything to nitpick with this one! So click on over and check out an example of a great query!

Cover Reveal for Kelley York's Dirty London!

I'm a big fan of Kelley York's books, and I'm happy to take part in the cover reveal for her forthcoming Young Adult novel, Dirty London:

All London Noble wanted out of her senior year of high school was anonymity. The complete opposite of Jasmine, her emotionally unstable baby sister, London has worked hard to stay out of the spotlight.

Then she discovers that Wade, one of the most popular guys in school, is gay like her and their new-found closeness based around their shared secret has half the student body convinced they're hooking up...and a lot of girls aren't happy about it. Rumors are flying about "Dirty London" and her inability to keep her clothes on, and London is pretty sure she's developing a crush on the only girl who sees through it all.

If she could admit why stealing boyfriends is the last thing on her mind—not to mention find out what's going on with Jasmine and her rapidly disappearing psych medications—her life would be a much brighter place. But if her and Wade's truth gets out, and if she doesn't find a way to help her sister, London faces losing a lot more than her obscurity.

Release date: February 2014 (tentatively)

About Kelley:

About the Author
Kelley York was born in central California, where she still resides with her lovely wife, step-daughter, and cats, while fantasizing about moving to England or Ireland. She has a fascination with bells and animals, is a lover of video games, and likes to pretend she’s a decent photographer. Her life goal is to find a real unicorn. Or to at least write about them.

Kelley is a sucker for dark fiction. She loves writing twisted characters, tragic happenings, and bittersweet endings that leave you wondering and crying. Character development takes center stage in her books because the bounds of a person's character and the workings of their mind are limitless.

Love that cover and blurb, Kelley! Can't wait to read it in February!

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving Day to my U.S. readers!

Some things I'm thankful for this day:

The health to take lovely walks with my husband (this is New York Creek from this morning)

And these next two things I'm thankful for are related. The first is that I'm thankful we decided to have a quiet, reflective day for just the two of us. The second is because when we went to put the turkey in the oven, it was still frozen! Not just a little bit, either, even though we'd taken it out last Sunday.

So I'm thankful we both have a sense of humor, because it is more funny to us than disastrous. I'm not sure if I'd be so blase though if we had 15 people waiting on an ice block bird!

Hope you all have a happy day!

OA Today

I'm on Operation Awesome today, with a successful query example and a call for queries to critique!

Click on over and check it out! And don't forget that we have a Mystery Editor Contest coming up Dec. 1!

One of Those "How I Got My Agent" Stories

UPDATE: I have since parted ways with this agent; although we like and respect each other, it turned out our business and communication styles did not match up. I sincerely wish him and his clients the best, and am leaving this (slightly edited) version of this post up because it represents an important part of my writing journey. Hopefully, other good news will follow this somewhat regretful news!

I can't tell you how long I've been waiting to have my own "How I Got My Agent" story! And what a weird and wonderful tale it is (with some salty language included for realism):

Wednesday, November 6, started like any normal day.

Normal for me, anyway, which means I walked past the pool and entered the locker room, only to be confronted by a pack of my giggling friends. One of them said, "There you are! We saw this and thought of you."

And handed me a persimmon that was clearly happy to see me, judging by the appendage it was sporting. I accepted it with due pomp and circumstance, and we all went out to the pool.

It was later, as I was one-foot-through my undies, when my phone rang. The number showed as "unavailable", but since I was waiting to hear back on submissions I answered. And knew immediately that it was an agent.

Mainly because that's how he introduced himself, but still, it echoed mightily in my head. "Omigawd, it's an agent calling me!" followed closely by a heartfelt prayer that nobody flushes a toilet in the adjacent bathroom. Those things sound like jet engines, while simultaneously being completely obvious it's a toilet.

In any case, I knew a locker room was not the sort of place I'd be able to conduct any kind of useful conversation. I politely asked if I could give him a call back in a few minutes and took down his number with a shaking hand. And made really sure I had hit "end call" before I shrieked "That was a fucking agent on the phone!"

At which, all my friends still in the locker room laughed and said, "We knew it was important--you didn't sound at all like yourself." So I rushed to finish getting dressed and went out to my car, where a bit of phone tag ensued until we connected.

He had some great things to say about my book--how he loved the voice, thought the relationships were true to life-- and there was more but all the blood pounding in my head made some of the words sound like the teachers on a Peanuts special. But I felt like he really got my book, and my main character, which all joking aside is absolutely crucial.

And then we moved on to the compatibility portion of the conversation--or as he put it, seeing if our "crazy matches up". He asked why I had submitted to him specifically; I knew from his Twitter feed, and various online interviews, that he has a wicked sense of humor and is actively creative himself. His clients write some gritty, sexy, amazing stuff.

He had actually been on the top of my "agents to query" list, but when I started to send out Crow's Rest, he happened to be closed to submissions. Once I belatedly realized he was open again, I sent my query off with crossed fingers.

Sigh. If only I had said any of those fangirly things when he asked why I'd submitted to him, instead of getting flustered and blurting, "Um, I think your name came up during the LGBQT panel at the LA SCBWI conference last year?" Which is a pretty good reason, but not quite as personalized as he might have been looking for.

And yet, he overlooked it and offered me representation.

RTW: Downed Wood and Boulders

I've been parked on the side of the Road Trip Wednesday for awhile, but today's topic caught my eye and I'm in! Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: Pictures that inspire your WIP

I have loads of pictures for Crow's Rest, but now that it's a finished book I suppose I'll have to feature some other work. I did a photo shoot a month ago for fall color, and there's one image that's really haunting me (click on it to see it larger).

Not fifty feet behind me was a road lined with cars and photographers, taking pictures of the aspens lining the roadway.

I followed a trickle of snow melt into this clearing of downed wood and boulders. So eerie and hushed, and lit like a stained glass window.

(If you've read The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, think Cabeswater of the Sierras)

So although I don't have an actual WIP inspired by this photo yet, I can feel a little sprout of something starting.

Feel free to put a link to your post in the comments if you played along with Road Trip Wednesday. Don't forget to go to the YA Highway post and read all the answers!

Crow Dreams

So as you might guess from the title, my book Crow's Rest features crows. (And some not-crows, too, but you'd have to read the book to get that reference).

In early October, I happened to be in Target, lured by their ad with a motion-activated crow Halloween decoration. They were out of those, but they did have this cool stuff:

I love the lanterns (with LED flickering candles) and will probably use those year round. And the  tablecloths!

The plan was to buy more plates, napkins, and serving bowls on clearance after Halloween, but they were out of a lot of that stuff by the time I got there (15 minutes after they opened on Nov. 1). I did find some really cool wall decals that I hadn't seen before, and I nabbed some of the crow's feet servers and snack bowls.

In my opinion, those crow decals were just what this wall needed:

Too bad they didn't like sticking to the textured wall and started to peel off almost immediately. But I do have mirrored closet doors in my office and I think they'll stick nicely there.

Even though I will get use out of these items in my home, what I really have in mind for them is to use at a book launch or book signing for Crow's Rest. Especially those tablecloths--so different! And even though an event is in the unknown future, I love feeling like the possibility is real by stockpiling this kind of stuff.

What about you? Do you have any "must-have" items in mind for when you do an in-person event for your book(s)? 

Bonus photo: My mom collects owls, and I have long since given in to enabling her addiction. This is the stuff I found for her while shopping the clearance aisles:

OA Today

Over on Operation Awesome today, I'm hosting author Tina Moss, who's talking about writing paranormal fiction. Click over and see!

And Happy-almost-Halloween!

Still, and Once Again, A Writer

I've posted before about my cancer experience, but a recent post got me thinking about it in a different way. Brigid Kemmerer posted last Friday in response to a reader's question: How do you get back into writing after a long absence or life event? She has some great insights and interpretations on how life events shape both you and your writing. Go read it here--I'll wait.

For me, writing over the last few years has been intertwined with a cancer diagnosis and the treatments. I had my 2nd biopsy the same week I got a serious R&R on my first book, and then crammed a rewrite in before my surgery. It still wasn't where I wanted it, so I did another one after the surgery and before my radiation started. Then was so out of it for a few months that I have huge gaps in my memory for that period. Wouldn't be surprised if I someday come across a file with stuff I'd written during those months, with no idea I'd done so!

But once it seemed like I was out of the woods, the book idea I'd had rattling around became my "hope" book. A sign that I was making plans again, that I had ambitions beyond my recliner. A book where I could lose myself in a world in my head, since I didn't have the energy to do much physically. Crow's Rest became the book where I threw my voice--quite literally, since I had vocal cord paralysis on one side for about 5 weeks after the surgery.

And after several stops and starts, when I had a finished book and polished it up again, it helped me feel like I was more than cancer. (Or even more than post-cancer, since I had a clean scan last January.) I was still, and once again, a writer. And as Brigid said, I'd also learned to take risks. I didn't feel like I was working on the same timeline as I'd had before--"I have time to develop as a writer" didn't feel so safe anymore.

So if nothing else came from this experience, it cured me from the tendency to pants a book without an outline, and as a result has made my writing much tighter. I also worry less about being taken seriously, or being a Great Writer of High Falutin Literature, and whether people think writing for children is training wheels for eventually writing for adults.

Because I'm writing exactly what I'm supposed to be writing, for here and now, for who I am now.

Ooops--OA today

Totally forgot to remind you I'm ranting posting on Operation Awesome today! Go check it out!

And, I went to see Gail Carriger speak in San Leandro and she posted the picture we took on her blog, too! Squee!

What A Weight Off My Shoulders!

So I cut my hair shorter. Here's how I looked on our vacation at the end of September. I'm the one on the left.

And here's the photo we took this weekend:

It's hard to tell since I'm wearing a jacket in the first pic, but I chopped about 6-7" off. And let me tell you, I wasn't aware of how much the extra length was bothering me until it was gone.

Here comes the writing metaphor: I've been working on a rewrite, and large chunks of text no longer fit the new direction the book is going. Rather than force some kind of transitional wordage to link the old parts and the new parts, I've been deleting entire chapters and starting from scratch.

It was intimidating to even consider it at first, but it's been so liberating since I've done it.

P.S. Here's a bonus pic--I couldn't work it into the writing metaphor, but I love this one! It's a sweet potato I grew.

OA Today with a Query Critique

I'm over on Operation Awesome today with our latest query critique! Please go check it out and offer some support for our brave volunteer, Maribeth Graham!

On September 16, we put out a call on Operation Awesome for brave souls who would like to have their query critiqued, and today (September 23) is the last day to enter! The winner will be emailed and tweeted with the news on the 24th, and the query with comments will go up on September 30.

If that sounds like something you'd be interested in, go enter! And good luck!

Fellow Operation Awesome operative Angela J Townsend has a new book coming out September 27 from Clean Teen Publishing, and to celebrate I'm hosting a giveaway! Here's the lowdown on Angus MacBain and The Island of Sleeping Kings:

About the story:

Angus MacBain is unaware that his ancestral roots hail from an ancient sect of Scottish kings. When his dying grandfather gives him a dragon pendant, thirteen-year-old Angus learns of a legacy that will take him across an ocean to the island of Iona and thrust him into a heritage he did not know he had. He soon discovers that his mother, whom he had believed dead, is really a seal fairy, in hiding from a dangerous enemy. To save her, Angus must undergo a perilous journey of destiny and power to battle an evil Dacian knight and those who serve him. With only his family shield and the advice of a wizened vampire hunter to protect him, Angus must navigate dangerous terrain and dark enemies, in a land where the past and the present mingle, and sleeping kings wake.

About the author:

Angela Townsend was born in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Missoula, Montana. As a child, Angela grew up listening to stories told by her grandparents, ancient tales and legends of faraway places. Influenced by her Irish and Scottish heritage, Angela became an avid research historian, specializing in Celtic mythology. Her gift for storytelling finally led her to a full time writing career.

Angela divides her time between writing, playing Celtic music on her fiddle, and Irish dancing. She resides in Northwestern Montana, with her two children Levi and Grant.

Angela's novel, Amarok, was published in November 2012 by Spencer Hill Press. It has been on Amazon’s best seller list in three categories, and was reviewed by the School Library Journal. Amarok is available in print and audio editions through as well as at large chain stores, including Walmart.

You can find her on her blog and Facebook and Twitter!

Plus, Angela kindly answered a few questions I was curious about:

1) What age group is Angus MacBain intended for?
All ages. I think everyone enjoys a good fantasy story. Tales told around the fireplace about dragons, castles, knights have been a long held tradition.

2) Will you share some interesting things you found while researching the fairy and folklore for this story?
I enjoy researching anything to do with Irish or Scottish myth and lore. There were many fascinating things I uncovered. Too many to mention. I've spent years researching Celtic legends and their origins In fact, I enjoy researching different cultures and myths in general.

My educational background is in Cultural Anthropology and research. The work that went into Angus MacBain and the Island of Sleeping Kings is a result of many years of careful study. MacBain is an ancestral name in my family spelled both McBain and MacBain.

I enjoyed incorporating a bit of my own family history into this novel. I have very strong Irish and Scottish roots so I have a special love for the preservation of Celtic history.

3) What other projects are you working on right now?
I'm currently working on Book 2 and Book 3 of the Angus MacBain series.

And now, you can enter to win A Magical Bag filled with Angus MacBain swag in the Rafflecopter below! Magnets, pens, erasers, wristbands, book marks, Angus Jewelry, plus bonus items!! (Sorry, this giveaway is for U.S. addresses only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

OA Today with Nancy Herman!

Whew, that was some Mystery Agent Contest yesterday! All my tweeting and sharing must have helped, because we had some new names in the entries.

Over on Operation Awesome today, I have a fabulous cover reveal with critique partner Nancy Herman! Hop on over and give her some cover love.


This might read like Six Degrees of the Writer World, but some years ago I approached Brigid Kemmerer about beta reading one of my manuscripts. We'd commented on a lot of the same threads on Absolute Write's Water Cooler forum and seemed like a good writerly match.

Alas, Brigid was just starting the sweet insanity of deadlines for multiple books under contract and wasn't able to read for me then. But, she did have another writer-friend, Alison Kemper who was willing to give my pages a look. Brigid thought we'd be a good team, and she was right! Alison and I share a quirky sense of humor and a mutual love of each other's sarcastic main characters.

Then, last year, Alison sent another writer my way who was looking for some query help. Karen McCoy and I ended up trading manuscripts and cheering each other along on our writing journeys. So when Karen said she'd be passing through Sacramento, I jumped at the chance to meet up with her in person.

We chose the Crocker Art Museum because it's right off I-5--and because I love their exhibits and cafe. We didn't have too much time to see the exhibits (there were Important Writing Conversations to be had!) but we each got fantastic salads and had a great visit. And because Alison was in our thoughts and conversation, I added her to the souvenir photo of the day.

That's Karen on the left (who looks so young that the guy at the desk gave her a "Youth" sticker when I checked us in on my membership), me in the middle, and Alison on the right, all the way from North Carolina. Yay for writer friends, and their support in this crazy undertaking called writing!

P.S. I'd be remiss not to mention another writer connection--I met Laurie Dennison at LA SCBWI last year, and I sent her Karen's way when they were looking for an additional beta. They each thanked me for that, so it must have been another successful connection!

Maybe I should add Laurie next to Karen in the photo?

OA Today

I'm over on Operation Awesome today with a post on a great forthcoming writing book by K. M. Weiland. Go check it out, and see you back here next Monday!

Voices and Truths

After an unexpectedly-long hiatus while I dealt with some family issues, I'm finally tackling the revisions on Spirits from the Vasty Deep! Taking it in a completely different direction; I originally thought it would require a rewrite of about 2/3 of the book, but I now think there will be very few recognizable sections from the earlier versions.

But one part that's coming back is the New Adult slant; Olivia was originally 19 years old, but was changed to a younger age to better fit the Young Adult mould on the advice of several agents. At the time, there wasn't really a New Adult market, but Olivia's happy to step back into her slightly more grownup shoes.

So today was spent nailing down some of the worldbuilding and voice, and I kind of like what I came up with this morning. It's sort of Olivia's own take on her gift/curse:

No matter how sincerely I try to tell a person that it is impossible for me to lie, it only serves to arouse their suspicions that I am a liar.

Unfortunately, also claiming I can communicate with the spirits only heightens these suspicions.

But however incredible they may sound, both statements are indeed true—two sides of the same coin in a deal brokered with Death. As my long-ago ancestor found, no dealings with Death are ever straightforward, and this talent of speaking for the dead comes with a price.

To prevent our own human nature corrupting Death’s gift by falsely delivering a message from the spirits, a Caller must always tell the truth. No matter if their own life hangs in the balance, a falsehood cannot pass lips that speak the secrets of the spiritworld.

It was my father’s good fortune to be blessed with a Caller child whose talents are even stronger than her late mother’s, but not to have to labor under the yoke of perpetual truthfulness himself. For him, it opened up a world of deceptions and trickery, cheats and rascalry. For me, it was a life of shame and regrets, late-night departures from the windows of unpaid hotel rooms under cover of the angry mutterings of the townspeople.

Only escaping from my father's reach entirely could save me. But how can I escape my father, when even death doesn't truly part us?